How to Write a Resume: A Comprehensive Guide on Everything You Need to Know

Any serious job hunter would know that writing a good resume is the first step to securing a great job. Given that the job market is becoming more competitive, the qualities that make a resume good have increased and become more varied. If you want to make sure that your resume encapsulates your capabilities well and gives you that much-needed edge, then it’s a must that you take the time to learn how to write a resume.

Grab a coffee and a snack if you’d like, because this comprehensive guide will take you through everything you need to know about properly writing a resume, from the content to the format and everything in between. Let’s begin!

The Guiding Principles

Before we get into the more technical side of learning how to write a resume, there are two guiding principles that you must first know by heart. The first is the purpose of a resume. Since it’s a tool that’s supposed to help you get a job, the main purpose of a resume is to answer three questions in the fastest and most convenient way possible. These questions are: 1) Who are you? 2) What have you accomplished so far? and 3) What skills do you have that may help you accomplish more things in the future? In other words, a resume should perfectly convey what you have to offer to the company you’re eyeing. Think of it as the perfect advertisement for you as an employee and your career so far.

The second guiding principle in writing resumes is that it is different from a curriculum vitae, or CV. As mentioned, convenience is key for any job recruiter, considering that they go through hundreds if not thousands of resumes a day. For that reason, resumes should be short and concise. One page should be enough to highlight all your relevant skills and work experiences. CVs, on the other hand, are much longer and detailed, since it’s essentially an in-depth narration of your entire career.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to get into the whats and hows in learning how to write a resume. Don’t get too nervous, though – there are only three (relatively) simple steps.


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Step 1: Plan and Write the Content

Before you plan anything else, you must prepare to include the following essential information in your resume:

1. Name

This is a no-brainer. However, it’s best not to include your nickname in your resume since it may come off as unprofessional, especially if you’re applying for a job in a traditional company. Besides, you could always share your nickname during the job interview, if you’re advanced to that stage. The only possible exception to this rule is if you’re a skilled creative, like a writer, who is known under another alias.

2. Job Title

This basically encapsulates what you do. You could go another route by typing in the name of the position that you’re applying for.

3. Contact Information

These may include your cell and home numbers and professional email address. Notice that we emphasized the word ‘professional’. Any recruiter would be turned off by an applicant who can be reached through babyboy69@yahoo.com. Make sure your email address in no way resembles that.

4. Summary or Objective

You don’t have to include both in your resume. If you’re a seasoned veteran with years of experience, a summary is the way to go. This is because you’d want to quickly showcase your work accomplishments throughout the years as well the companies you’ve been with. Meanwhile, if you’re a fresh graduate or someone who’s changing careers, then an objective suits you better. It should convey what you’re looking to achieve and what you can offer as an employee.

5. Relevant Work Experience

Now this is the fun part, the main event. In writing each work experience, include the following information:

a. Job Title / Position

b. Name of the Company

c. Years Served

d. Accomplishments

This part should be written in a way that highlights which skills you utilized the most and which ones you’ve improved along the way. It’s also best to be specific here by quantifying your achievements. For instance, a better way of saying that you “assisted the marketing team” is saying that you “created a print ad that helped the marketing team gain 250,000 online engagements in two weeks.”

Aside from being vague, another thing that you should avoid doing is to add your previous job descriptions. Recruiters are probably already familiar with the responsibilities that come with a certain position. Again, it’s more important to highlight what you specifically did and what skills were involved to accomplish something.

Finally, each entry for work experience should only have around five bullet points that detail your major accomplishments. A strong bullet point should have three parts: an action verb, a quantifiable point, and a relevant job duty. This is reflected in the example we gave previously.

6. Relevant Skills

There are two types of skills that you may include in your resume – technical and soft. Technical skills are those that you usually pick up at a university or under a training program, such as coding or illustrating. They are quantifiable and concrete. Soft skills, on the other hand, are more personal attributes that could dictate how you are as an employee. These include your communication and leadership skills.

To make sure that the skills you’re listing off in your resume are all relevant, go over the job offer of your desired position carefully, and pick up the specific technical and soft skills that they’re looking for. If you’re certain that you match the bill, including those skills in your resume may convince the recruiter that you’re the right one for the post.

7.    Education

This section gives you the chance to showcase your foundation and any other significant accomplishments. Each entry should have the following information:

a.    Program

b.    University

c.    Years Attended

d.    Relevant courses, thesis, or projects

e.    GPA/ Honors (optional)

Only include this part if you gained exceptional distinctions.

Lastly, there’s no need to include all your educational experiences. If you went to a university, your high school education should no longer be included in your resume.

Since each career is unique, you may include optional sections in your resume if you feel like they are necessary. Be careful though, because it would be tricky to include these if you don’t know how to write a resume.

1.    Social Media Handles

This is applicable to those who have built portfolios in certain online platforms. You may also include your LinkedIn account if you have significant connections there.

2.    Languages

Thanks to globalization, companies are looking to hire individuals that are proficient in more than one language. So, if you are, don’t hesitate to put it in your resume. Just be sure to quantify your language abilities by using a proficiency scale such as the Interagency Language Roundtable scale.

 3.    Relevant Certifications, Publications, or Projects

This optional section would be especially helpful to you if you have multiple technical skills that are all certified. If you’re a fresh graduate with minimal work experience, including relevant projects or publications could also be a way to make up for that.

4.    Volunteer Experience

Altruism could be a huge part of your life. If that’s the case, including your volunteer experiences in your resume might just help your case. This would be especially true if your applying for a position in a charitable organization.

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Step 2: Pick the Right Format

Once you’ve prepared all the relevant information, the next step in learning how to write a resume would be to determine how you should arrange your content, with emphasis on your work experiences and skills. Generally, there are three resume formats to choose from:

1.    Reverse Chronological

Ideal for people with tons of relevant work experience, the reverse chronological format is the most popular one. This format is particularly helpful for those who don’t really know how to write a resume, since it’s easy and straightforward. If you’re pursuing a position that’s in the same industry that you’ve been working in so far, this is the format for you. To follow this format, start listing your work experiences with the most recent one.

         Pros

·         The most familiar format for recruiters, so it’s the easiest for them to read

·         Appropriate for certain software, like the applicant tracking software (ATS), that automatically produces employment history

·         Easily showcases career development and highlights key experiences

         Cons

·         Accentuate minimal work experiences or gaps in employment

·         Traditional and common

2.    Functional / Skills-based

This is the perfect format for you if you have yet to earn notable experiences in your chosen career path or if you’re shifting to another one. A functional resume format is heavy on your technical and soft skills, where you learned them, and where you’ve applied them. Since this puts a spotlight on your skills, your potential and willingness to learn also shine through.

         Pros

·         Hides gaps in employment or a lack of notable work experiences

·         Showcases a wide range of both technical and soft skills

         Cons

·         Traditional recruiters may be turned off by the less familiar format

·         ATS may have a harder time extracting relevant sections

3.    Combination

As the name suggests, a combination resume format equally highlights your work experiences and your relevant skills. This is a good choice for you if you have multiple skill sets and if the role you’re eyeing requires expertise in multiple fields.

Pros

·         Flexible to different skill and experience levels

·         More dynamic and exciting to look at than the first two formats

         Cons

·         Poses the challenge of avoiding overlap between the skills and experiences sections

·         Requires adequate numbers of both skills and experiences

·         Leaves little room for an education section

Step 3: Design and Layout Effectively

The final step in learning how to write a resume is figuring out how to organize and present the necessary information in one page. Here are the most important best practices to help you layout your resume in a clean and organized manner:

1.    Stick to one page

As mentioned, resumes are supposed to be short and to the point. Limit yours to one page by focusing on necessary information only.

2.    Include easily readable section headings

This helps in making your resume look more organized by guiding the reader’s focus to certain sections. You can format text as section headings by using a slightly bigger font that the rest of the text (around 3-4 points bigger) or by typing the text in bold.

3.    Add line breaks

This is another way to organize your resume. It helps the reader distinguish one sections from another.

4.    Don’t overcrowd the page

Make sure that your text is evenly spaced out and that there is a one-inch margin all around the page.

5.    Pick professional-looking font

No one would read a resume that uses Comic Sans. It’s best to use fonts such as Times New Roman, Roboto, or Arial to give your resume a professional vibe. Make it large enough to read by keeping the size at 12 or 11 for normal text, and 14-16 for section headings.

6.    Go easy on the color

If you’re itching to make your resume look a bit more creative than the traditional types you see online, take your chosen industry into careful consideration. If you’re applying for a relatively more laid-back company (say, a trendy start-up or an innovative tech collective) it might be worth taking that creative risk. If you do, however, stick to two complementary colors (three at the most). However, if you’re applying for a traditional company, say finance or legal, it’s better to stay on the safe side and choose professional colors. If you must really use color, choose navy blue or dark beige.

A Final Word

It goes without saying that your resume should be your best foot put forward. However, that should never be an excuse to exaggerate and mislead. The last thing you should remember about writing a resume if you should never lie about your skills and experiences. Even if you do get the job in that way, sooner or later that lie will catch up with you, as most lies do. So, just be honest, straightforward, and considerate. Hopefully, this guide helped you confidently say that you now know how to write a resume. Good luck with the job hunt!

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Author: Diana Bautista
A soon-to-be college graduate who can sometimes be a bit too idealistic for her own good, Dey is a freelance writer and a mental health advocate.